MSNBC host Rachael Maddow has a new book out, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. I haven’t read it yet, but was expecting something pretty out in left field – Rachael Maddow is not exactly the most popular person in the military, so I was not expecting too much. That said, from these early looks at the book, it sounds like a lot of it is pretty reasonable. For the most part, it sounds like a modern update to Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex speech – a simple warning against unbridled executive power as opposed to the peacenik-screed I think many conservatives would assume from Ms. Maddow.
Her biggest point is that it has become too easy to start wars – the Executive Branch can make the decision essentially unilaterally, and because only 1% of the population bears all of the burden (the soldiers actually fighting), there’s no need for any branch of government to be especially picky about what wars we fight.
“The way to fix that is to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Maddow says. “There shouldn’t be tax cuts in wartime. Wars should be paid for through something other than an emergency budget supplemental bill. We shouldn’t be shielded from seeing American casualties, whether it’s soldiers who are wounded or remains when they’re repatriated from the United States. We shouldn’t be shielded from this stuff. And we are shielded because politicians didn’t want to explain the costs and debate them. There ought to be civilian political accountability for what we do in wartime.”
I largely agree on the tax thing – if a war is important enough to fight, it’s important enough to fund. Where I strongly disagree is on the American casualties part – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines wounded or killed in battle should never be used as a prop for political purposes. They are their own ends, and their treatment after the fact should be 100% dictated by the needs of them and their families. At the point they’ve died or been wounded for our country, they’ve done their part for democracy – they don’t need to be an object of pity or shame.
That said, I think the overall point of the book is an interesting one – the burden of fighting our wars has been too heavily borne by too small a segment of the population. Some combination of economic and political reforms should be undertaken to ensure that both branches of government and the electorate have something at stake when it’s time to go to war.